1) Case solves the disadvantage – oil spill inevitable for multiple warrants, and that crushes the economy. That’s the National Commission evidence. Means that the DA is inevitable
2) No passage – border security and house
[Dan, Washington field reporter, “Immigration Reform Outlook Iffy in House, Nassif Says,” Capital Press, 6/14/13, http://www.capitalpress.com/content/djw-immigration-061413]
As United Farm Workers of America and other groups step up public lobbying for the Senate immigration reform bill, a lead lobbyist for agriculture says chances of its passage in the Senate are good but just 50-50 in the House.¶ The Senate likely will pass its bill by the Fourth of July but whether the House can pass a bill so a conference committee between both chambers starts before the August recess is a key question, said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers Association of Irvine, Calif.¶ "It will be more difficult afterward. There won't be much time after that before the holidays and other bills and then electioneering (for the mid-term 2014 election," Nassif said.¶ "What they do when campaigning may be different," he said.¶ On June 13, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, by a vote of 57-43, that would have held off a first step toward legal status for 11 million illegal aliens living in the country until the Department of Homeland Security had maintained effective control of the entire U.S.-Mexico border for six months.¶ Proponents of the bill said that could take years to achieve.¶ The Senate bill likely has 60 votes, enough for passage, but the so-called Gang of Eight that drafted it wants to get more Republicans on board to reach 70, Nassif said.¶ That would require agreement on border security, which is difficult, he said. That element is also key in the House, where there also is a lot of skepticism about government enforcement of anything that passes, he said.¶ "I think we have to be very cautious about the House," Nassif said.¶ At least two bills and maybe another partisan group are forming there, he said.
3) DA is non-Intrinsic – A rational policymaker can do the plan and pass CIR. Judge should choose best policy option because it teaches decision making skills
4) XO solves
Nakamura 1-6 – David Nakamura and Tara Bahrampour, January 6th, 2013 "Obama using authority for immigrant issues," Washington Post, www.journalgazette.net/article/20130106/NEWS03/301069950/1066/NEWS03
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration’s decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead.¶ Immigration advocates on Thursday hailed a rule change at the Department of Homeland Security that would make it easier for many undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States as they seek permanent residency, saying it will improve the lives of relatives who could have been separated for years without the changes.¶ For President Obama – who has called the inability to achieve comprehensive immigration reform among the biggest regrets of his first term – the new policy is among a series of steps his administration has taken over the past year aimed in part at easing the pace of deportations, which have surged during his tenure. The steps also came amid a presidential campaign that included sharp disagreements over immigration policy and strong support among Latinos and Asians for Obama.¶ The centerpiece was Obama’s decision, announced last June, to stop deporting people who were brought to the country as children and have gone on to be productive and otherwise law-abiding residents.¶ “He is checking off every administrative box he can of what he can do with executive authority that comports with his overall view of immigration policy,” said Angela Kelley, an analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank allied with the White House.¶ The latest policy change is focused on illegal immigrants who have a spouse, parent or child with U.S. citizenship. Currently, in order to become legal they must leave the United States and apply for a waiver forgiving their unlawful presence in the country. Only then can they apply for an immigrant visa. And if they don’t get a waiver, they are barred from returning to the United States for up to 10 years, depending on the case.¶ The specter of being barred deterred many from applying. But under the rule change finalized Wednesday, those who qualify will be able to apply for waivers from within the United States starting March 4. Applicants must return to their native country for a brief period for the consular immigrant visa process.¶ The new rule greatly reduces the risk inherent in applying for a waiver, as people whose applications are rejected would still be in the United States when they heard the news. Even for those whose applications are approved, the new rule will allow them to spend much less time outside the United States, as they will travel abroad with waivers in hand.
5) NSA, Syria, AP, Benghazi trash chances of CIR
[“Political Turmoil at Home as Obama Heads to Europe,” Saudi Gazette, 6/16/13, http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130616169988]
President Barack Obama heads to next week’s summit of world leaders in Northern Ireland burdened by a messy domestic political landscape and distracting controversies. The latest one — about a leaked global surveillance program — has outraged people abroad and could cast a shadow on his trip.¶ The question is whether the growing political battles will affect Obama’s standing at a G-8 summit of leading industrial countries, where he now will be dealing with reactions to his decision to arm Syrian rebel forces after a US finding that President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons.¶ The decision should put Obama more in line with Europeans who made similar findings weeks ago. It also sharpens the differences with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an Assad supporter, who will also attend the summit.¶ Obama travels to Northern Ireland and later to Germany as he struggles on the domestic front. Despite his convincing victory in November, an improving economy and his still-respectable popularity numbers, his second-term agenda has stalled. An effort at gun control failed in the Senate, and his bid for a grand bipartisan bargain to cut government spending without harming the neediest Americans seems dead.¶ His last big hope for a big legislative win rides on an overhaul of immigration laws.¶ Yet it’s hard to keep lawmakers focused on immigration or much else with Obama on the defensive over a series of controversies. Republicans have been denouncing the administration’s actions surrounding a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.¶ Beyond that, Obama’s Justice Department took the unusual step of subpoenaing phone records of The Associated Press without prior notification and obtaining a search warrant to secretly gather emails of a Fox News journalist. That prompted an uproar over what many critics saw as a violation of constitutional protections of press freedom. Now comes the leaked information about the National Security Agency, the largest US spying organization, collecting the details of telephone records of Americans, and two NSA programs that purportedly target foreign messages — including private emails, voice and other data transmissions — sent through US Internet providers.¶ The NSA operations on foreign communications traffic might cause trouble for one of Obama’s top goals at the G-8 summit. The president hoped the G-8 leaders could announce the start of negotiations on a sweeping free-trade agreement to eliminate tariffs on trade with the European Union. European Parliament members, elected representatives from the 27-nation EU, now want language on data protection written into any possible deal.
6) Obama not pushing CIR
[Benjy, syndicated political commentator, “Obama: Congress, Get Your Act Together on Immigration,” MSNBC, 6/11/13, http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/06/11/president-obama-tells-congress-to-get-its-act-together-on-immigration/]
For the most part, Obama has been content to watch the debate from the sidelines in order to give Republicans political cover to negotiate a bill without tying themselves to the administration. The White House does have an immigration plan of its own that shares the same general structure as the “Gang of Eight,” which officials say they intend to introduce as a bill only if talks break down in Congress.
7) And that doesn’t matter – Both sides reeling after 2012 – need passage
[Margaret, syndicated political columnist, “Key Republican Senator Says Still Backs Immigration Bill,” Reuters, 6/16/13, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/16/us-usa-immigration-idUSBRE95F0CN20130616]
Republicans and Democrats are anxious to tackle immigration reform, after the increasingly influential Latino vote turned out heavily in favor of President Barack Obama and his Democrats in the November 2012 election.¶ This has not been lost on some Republicans, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who said the immigration bill would decide who wins the White House in 2016.¶ "If we don't pass immigration reform, if we don't get it off the table in a reasonable practical way, it doesn't matter who you (Republicans) run in 2016," Graham said on ABC's "This Week" program. "The only way we can get back in the good graces of the Hispanic community, in my view, is to pass a comprehensive immigration reform."
8) Republicans in Congress support plan – they were willing to buck Bush over it.
Tim Padgett joined TIME in 1996 as Mexico City bureau chief covering Latin America. In 1999 he moved to Florida to become TIME’s Miami & Latin America bureau chief, reporting on the hemisphere from Tallahassee to Tierra del Fuego. He has chronicled Mexico’s democratization and drug war as well as the rise of Latin leaders like Lula and Hugo Chavez, “How Cuba’s Oil Find Could Change the US Embargo”¶ Time Magazine – Oct. 23, 2008 – http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,¶ 1853252,00.html#ixzz13Li5cosN
Washington's own Cuba time warp got a jolt as well. The oil discovery has renewed debate over whether a crude-thirsty U.S. should loosen its 46-year-old trade embargo against Cuba and let yanqui firms join the drilling, which is taking place fewer than 100 miles off U.S. shores. Despite the Bush Administration's hard line on Cuba, Republicans in Congress have proposed legislation to exempt Big Oil from the embargo. That clamor is sure to rise — especially if Barack Obama, who is more open to dialogue with Havana, becomes the next President — now that Cuba's state oil company, Cubapetroleo, or Cupet, has announced a stunning new estimate of more than 20 billion bbl. bubbling off its shores. "This is not a game," Cupet's exploration manager, Rafael Tenreyro, assured reporters in Havana last week.¶ If true, those potential reserves could make Cuba a major petro player in the hemisphere. (The U.S. has reserves of 29 billion bbl.) And it could render the embargo an even more ineffective means of dislodging the aging Castro brothers, Fidel and current President Raúl. "If it really is 20 billion, then it's a game changer," says Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a Cuba oil analyst at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. "It provides a lot more justification for changing elements of the embargo, just as we did when we allowed agricultural and medical sales to Cuba" a decade ago.
9) Theyre key – number and signal
[Carrie, syndicated political writer, “Senate Votes to Begin Historic Immigration Reform Debate,” NBC First Read, 6/12/13, http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/11/18902366-senate-votes-to-begin-historic-immigration-reform-debate?lite]
A final vote on the legislation is not expected until before the chamber’s July 4 recess. Obama said Tuesday that he wants the bill to his desk by the end of the summer.¶ President Barack Obama delivers remarks Tuesday at the White House regarding proposed immigration reform legislation.¶ Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, an outspoken opponent of the bill, acknowledged after the vote that the bill likely has sufficient support in the upper chamber but warned that -- without changes -- it won’t survive to a White House signing ceremony.¶ “This bill is going to pass the Senate, but as written, this bill will not pass the House,” Cruz said.¶ Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Gang of Eight member and key GOP backer of the legislation, told reporters earlier Tuesday he believes the bill will pass out of the Senate but that it will need substantial Republican momentum to beat back opponents in the GOP-led House.¶ “If we get just a handful of Republicans I think it probably dies in the House, so I think it’s imperative we get close to half our conference” for a final vote, he said.
10) Bottom of the docket – Plan is at the bottom of the agenda. Means it doesn’t trigger the DA link
11) Decline doesn’t cause war
Barnett ‘ 9
(Thomas P.M Barnett, senior managing director of Enterra Solutions LLC, contributing editor/online columnist for Esquire, 8/25/’9 – “The New Rules: Security Remains Stable Amid Financial Crisis,” Aprodex, Asset Protection Index, http://www.aprodex.com/the-new-rules--security-remains-stable-amid-financial-crisis-398-bl.aspx)
When the global financial crisis struck roughly a year ago, the blogosphere was ablaze with all sorts of scary predictions of, and commentary regarding, ensuing conflict and wars -- a rerun of the Great Depression leading to world war, as it were. Now, as global economic news brightens and recovery -- surprisingly led by China and emerging markets -- is the talk of the day, it's interesting to look back over the past year and realize how globalization's first truly worldwide recession has had virtually no impact whatsoever on the international security landscape.¶ None of the more than three-dozen ongoing conflicts listed by GlobalSecurity.org can be clearly attributed to the global recession. Indeed, the last new entry (civil conflict between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestine) predates the economic crisis by a year, and three quarters of the chronic struggles began in the last century. Ditto for the 15 low-intensity conflicts listed by Wikipedia (where the latest entry is the Mexican "drug war" begun in 2006). Certainly, the Russia-Georgia conflict last August was specifically timed, but by most accounts the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was the most important external trigger (followed by the U.S. presidential campaign) for that sudden spike in an almost two-decade long struggle between Georgia and its two breakaway regions.¶ Looking over the various databases, then, we see a most familiar picture: the usual mix of civil conflicts, insurgencies, and liberation-themed terrorist movements. Besides the recent Russia-Georgia dust-up, the only two potential state-on-state wars (North v. South Korea, Israel v. Iran) are both tied to one side acquiring a nuclear weapon capacity -- a process wholly unrelated to global economic trends.¶ And with the United States effectively tied down by its two ongoing major interventions (Iraq and Afghanistan-bleeding-into-Pakistan), our involvement elsewhere around the planet has been quite modest, both leading up to and following the onset of the economic crisis: e.g., the usual counter-drug efforts in Latin America, the usual military exercises with allies across Asia, mixing it up with pirates off Somalia's coast). Everywhere else we find serious instability we pretty much let it burn, occasionally pressing the Chinese -- unsuccessfully -- to do something. Our new Africa Command, for example, hasn't led us to anything beyond advising and training local forces.
12) Doesn’t solve econ– immigration impact negligible
Steve Malanga is a Contributing Editor to City Journal and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute., Summer 2006, How Unskilled Immigrants Hurt Our Economy, http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_3_immigrants_economy.html
As foreign competition and mechanization shrink manufacturing and farmworker jobs, low-skilled immigrants are likely to wind up farther on the margins of our economy, where many already operate. For example, although only about 12 percent of construction workers are foreign-born, 100,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants have carved a place for themselves as temporary workers on the fringes of the industry. In urban areas like New York and Los Angeles, these mostly male illegal immigrants gather on street corners, in empty lots, or in Home Depot parking lots to sell their labor by the hour or the day, for $7 to $11 an hour. That’s far below what full-time construction workers earn, and for good reason. Unlike the previous generations of immigrants who built America’s railroads or great infrastructure projects like New York’s bridges and tunnels, these day laborers mostly do home-improvement projects. A New York study, for instance, found that four in ten employers who hire day laborers are private homeowners or renters wanting help with cleanup chores, moving, or landscaping. Another 56 percent were contractors, mostly small, nonunion shops, some owned by immigrants themselves, doing short-term, mostly residential work. The day laborer’s market, in other words, has turned out to be a boon for homeowners and small contractors offering their residential clients a rock-bottom price, but a big chunk of the savings comes because low-wage immigration has produced such a labor surplus that many of these workers are willing to take jobs without benefits and with salaries far below industry norms. Because so much of our legal and illegal immigrant labor is concentrated in such fringe, low-wage employment, its overall impact on our economy is extremely small. A 1997 National Academy of Sciences study estimated that immigration’s net benefit to the American economy raises the average income of the native-born by only some $10 billion a year—about $120 per household. And that meager contribution is not the result of immigrants helping to build our essential industries or making us more competitive globally but instead merely delivering our pizzas and cutting our grass. Estimates by pro-immigration forces that foreign workers contribute much more to the economy, boosting annual gross domestic product by hundreds of billions of dollars, generally just tally what immigrants earn here, while ignoring the offsetting effect they have on the wages of native-born workers.
13) Fiat solves the link – aff doesn’t need to defend reaction to the plan
14) Political capital doesn’t exist and isn’t key to their DA- more likely winners win
Michael Hirsch, chief correspondent for National Journal. He also contributes to 2012 Decoded. Hirsh previously served as the senior editor and national economics correspondent for Newsweek, based in its Washington bureau. He was also Newsweek’s Washington web editor and authored a weekly column for Newsweek.com, “The World from Washington.” Earlier on, he was Newsweek’s foreign editor, guiding its award-winning coverage of the September 11 attacks and the war on terror. He has done on-the-ground reporting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the world, and served as the Tokyo-based Asia Bureau Chief for Institutional Investor from 1992 to 1994. http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/there-s-no-such-thing-as-political-capital-20130207
On Tuesday, in his State of the Union address, President Obama will do what every president does this time of year. For about 60 minutes, he will lay out a sprawling and ambitious wish list highlighted by gun control and immigration reform, climate change and debt reduction. In response, the pundits will do what they always do this time of year: They will talk about how unrealistic most of the proposals are, discussions often informed by sagacious reckonings of how much “political capital” Obama possesses to push his program through. Most of this talk will have no bearing on what actually happens over the next four years. Consider this: Three months ago, just before the November election, if someone had talked seriously about Obama having enough political capital to oversee passage of both immigration reform and gun-control legislation at the beginning of his second term—even after winning the election by 4 percentage points and 5 million votes (the actual final tally)—this person would have been called crazy and stripped of his pundit’s license. (It doesn’t exist, but it ought to.) In his first term, in a starkly polarized country, the president had been so frustrated by GOP resistance that he finally issued a limited executive order last August permitting immigrants who entered the country illegally as children to work without fear of deportation for at least two years. Obama didn’t dare to even bring up gun control, a Democratic “third rail” that has cost the party elections and that actually might have been even less popular on the right than the president’s health care law. And yet, for reasons that have very little to do with Obama’s personal prestige or popularity—variously put in terms of a “mandate” or “political capital”—chances are fair that both will now happen. What changed? In the case of gun control, of course, it wasn’t the election. It was the horror of the 20 first-graders who were slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., in mid-December. The sickening reality of little girls and boys riddled with bullets from a high-capacity assault weapon seemed to precipitate a sudden tipping point in the national conscience. One thing changed after another. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association marginalized himself with poorly chosen comments soon after the massacre. The pro-gun lobby, once a phalanx of opposition, began to fissure into reasonables and crazies. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head two years ago and is still struggling to speak and walk, started a PAC with her husband to appeal to the moderate middle of gun owners. Then she gave riveting and poignant testimony to the Senate, challenging lawmakers: “Be bold.” As a result, momentum has appeared to build around some kind of a plan to curtail sales of the most dangerous weapons and ammunition and the way people are permitted to buy them. It’s impossible to say now whether such a bill will pass and, if it does, whether it will make anything more than cosmetic changes to gun laws. But one thing is clear: The political tectonics have shifted dramatically in very little time. Whole new possibilities exist now that didn’t a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Republican members of the Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight are pushing hard for a new spirit of compromise on immigration reform, a sharp change after an election year in which the GOP standard-bearer declared he would make life so miserable for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. that they would “self-deport.” But this turnaround has very little to do with Obama’s personal influence—his political mandate, as it were. It has almost entirely to do with just two numbers: 71 and 27. That’s 71 percent for Obama, 27 percent for Mitt Romney, the breakdown of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential election. Obama drove home his advantage by giving a speech on immigration reform on Jan. 29 at a Hispanic-dominated high school in Nevada, a swing state he won by a surprising 8 percentage points in November. But the movement on immigration has mainly come out of the Republican Party’s recent introspection, and the realization by its more thoughtful members, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, that without such a shift the party may be facing demographic death in a country where the 2010 census showed, for the first time, that white births have fallen into the minority. It’s got nothing to do with Obama’s political capital or, indeed, Obama at all. The point is not that “political capital” is a meaningless term. Often it is a synonym for “mandate” or “momentum” in the aftermath of a decisive election—and just about every politician ever elected has tried to claim more of a mandate than he actually has. Certainly, Obama can say that because he was elected and Romney wasn’t, he has a better claim on the country’s mood and direction. Many pundits still defend political capital as a useful metaphor at least. “It’s an unquantifiable but meaningful concept,” says Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “You can’t really look at a president and say he’s got 37 ounces of political capital. But the fact is, it’s a concept that matters, if you have popularity and some momentum on your side.” The real problem is that the idea of political capital—or mandates, or momentum—is so poorly defined that presidents and pundits often get it wrong. “Presidents usually over-estimate it,” says George Edwards, a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University. “The best kind of political capital—some sense of an electoral mandate to do something—is very rare. It almost never happens. In 1964, maybe. And to some degree in 1980.” For that reason, political capital is a concept that misleads far more than it enlightens. It is distortionary. It conveys the idea that we know more than we really do about the ever-elusive concept of political power, and it discounts the way unforeseen events can suddenly change everything. Instead, it suggests, erroneously, that a political figure has a concrete amount of political capital to invest, just as someone might have real investment capital—that a particular leader can bank his gains, and the size of his account determines what he can do at any given moment in history. Naturally, any president has practical and electoral limits. Does he have a majority in both chambers of Congress and a cohesive coalition behind him? Obama has neither at present. And unless a surge in the economy—at the moment, still stuck—or some other great victory gives him more momentum, it is inevitable that the closer Obama gets to the 2014 election, the less he will be able to get done. Going into the midterms, Republicans will increasingly avoid any concessions that make him (and the Democrats) stronger. But the abrupt emergence of the immigration and gun-control issues illustrates how suddenly shifts in mood can occur and how political interests can align in new ways just as suddenly. Indeed, the pseudo-concept of political capital masks a larger truth about Washington that is kindergarten simple: You just don’t know what you can do until you try. Or as Ornstein himself once wrote years ago, “Winning wins.” In theory, and in practice, depending on Obama’s handling of any particular issue, even in a polarized time, he could still deliver on a lot of his second-term goals, depending on his skill and the breaks. Unforeseen catalysts can appear, like Newtown. Epiphanies can dawn, such as when many Republican Party leaders suddenly woke up in panic to the huge disparity in the Hispanic vote. Some political scientists who study the elusive calculus of how to pass legislation and run successful presidencies say that political capital is, at best, an empty concept, and that almost nothing in the academic literature successfully quantifies or even defines it. “It can refer to a very abstract thing, like a president’s popularity, but there’s no mechanism there. That makes it kind of useless,” says Richard Bensel, a government professor at Cornell University. Even Ornstein concedes that the calculus is far more complex than the term suggests. Winning on one issue often changes the calculation for the next issue; there is never any known amount of capital. “The idea here is, if an issue comes up where the conventional wisdom is that president is not going to get what he wants, and he gets it, then each time that happens, it changes the calculus of the other actors” Ornstein says. “If they think he’s going to win, they may change positions to get on the winning side. It’s a bandwagon effect.”¶ ALL THE WAY WITH LBJ¶ Sometimes, a clever practitioner of power can get more done just because he’s aggressive and knows the hallways of Congress well. Texas A&M’s Edwards is right to say that the outcome of the 1964 election, Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, was one of the few that conveyed a mandate. But one of the main reasons for that mandate (in addition to Goldwater’s ineptitude as a candidate) was President Johnson’s masterful use of power leading up to that election, and his ability to get far more done than anyone thought possible, given his limited political capital. In the newest volume in his exhaustive study of LBJ, The Passage of Power, historian Robert Caro recalls Johnson getting cautionary advice after he assumed the presidency from the assassinated John F. Kennedy in late 1963. Don’t focus on a long-stalled civil-rights bill, advisers told him, because it might jeopardize Southern lawmakers’ support for a tax cut and appropriations bills the president needed. “One of the wise, practical people around the table [said that] the presidency has only a certain amount of coinage to expend, and you oughtn’t to expend it on this,” Caro writes. (Coinage, of course, was what political capital was called in those days.) Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?” Johnson didn’t worry about coinage, and he got the Civil Rights Act enacted, along with much else: Medicare, a tax cut, antipoverty programs. He appeared to understand not just the ways of Congress but also the way to maximize the momentum he possessed in the lingering mood of national grief and determination by picking the right issues, as Caro records. “Momentum is not a mysterious mistress,” LBJ said. “It is a controllable fact of political life.” Johnson had the skill and wherewithal to realize that, at that moment of history, he could have unlimited coinage if he handled the politics right. He did. (At least until Vietnam, that is.) And then there are the presidents who get the politics, and the issues, wrong. It was the last president before Obama who was just starting a second term, George W. Bush, who really revived the claim of political capital, which he was very fond of wielding. Then Bush promptly demonstrated that he didn’t fully understand the concept either. At his first news conference after his 2004 victory, a confident-sounding Bush declared, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. That’s my style.” The 43rd president threw all of his political capital at an overriding passion: the partial privatization of Social Security. He mounted a full-bore public-relations campaign that included town-hall meetings across the country. Bush failed utterly, of course. But the problem was not that he didn’t have enough political capital. Yes, he may have overestimated his standing. Bush’s margin over John Kerry was thin—helped along by a bumbling Kerry campaign that was almost the mirror image of Romney’s gaffe-filled failure this time—but that was not the real mistake. The problem was that whatever credibility or stature Bush thought he had earned as a newly reelected president did nothing to make Social Security privatization a better idea in most people’s eyes. Voters didn’t trust the plan, and four years later, at the end of Bush’s term, the stock-market collapse bore out the public’s skepticism. Privatization just didn’t have any momentum behind it, no matter who was pushing it or how much capital Bush spent to sell it. The mistake that Bush made with Social Security, says John Sides, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University and a well-followed political blogger, “was that just because he won an election, he thought he had a green light. But there was no sense of any kind of public urgency on Social Security reform. It’s like he went into the garage where various Republican policy ideas were hanging up and picked one. I don’t think Obama’s going to make that mistake.… Bush decided he wanted to push a rock up a hill. He didn’t understand how steep the hill was. I think Obama has more momentum on his side because of the Republican Party’s concerns about the Latino vote and the shooting at Newtown.” Obama may also get his way on the debt ceiling, not because of his reelection, Sides says, “but because Republicans are beginning to doubt whether taking a hard line on fiscal policy is a good idea,” as the party suffers in the polls.¶ THE REAL LIMITS ON POWER¶ Presidents are limited in what they can do by time and attention span, of course, just as much as they are by electoral balances in the House and Senate. But this, too, has nothing to do with political capital. Another well-worn meme of recent years was that Obama used up too much political capital passing the health care law in his first term. But the real problem was that the plan was unpopular, the economy was bad, and the president didn’t realize that the national mood (yes, again, the national mood) was at a tipping point against big-government intervention, with the tea-party revolt about to burst on the scene. For Americans in 2009 and 2010—haunted by too many rounds of layoffs, appalled by the Wall Street bailout, aghast at the amount of federal spending that never seemed to find its way into their pockets—government-imposed health care coverage was simply an intervention too far. So was the idea of another economic stimulus. Cue the tea party and what ensued: two titanic fights over the debt ceiling. Obama, like Bush, had settled on pushing an issue that was out of sync with the country’s mood. Unlike Bush, Obama did ultimately get his idea passed. But the bigger political problem with health care reform was that it distracted the government’s attention from other issues that people cared about more urgently, such as the need to jump-start the economy and financial reform. Various congressional staffers told me at the time that their bosses didn’t really have the time to understand how the Wall Street lobby was riddling the Dodd-Frank financial-reform legislation with loopholes. Health care was sucking all the oxygen out of the room, the aides said. Weighing the imponderables of momentum, the often-mystical calculations about when the historic moment is ripe for an issue, will never be a science. It is mainly intuition, and its best practitioners have a long history in American politics. This is a tale told well in Steven Spielberg’s hit movie Lincoln. Daniel Day-Lewis’s Abraham Lincoln attempts a lot of behind-the-scenes vote-buying to win passage of the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, along with eloquent attempts to move people’s hearts and minds. He appears to be using the political capital of his reelection and the turning of the tide in the Civil War. But it’s clear that a surge of conscience, a sense of the changing times, has as much to do with the final vote as all the backroom horse-trading. “The reason I think the idea of political capital is kind of distorting is that it implies you have chits you can give out to people. It really oversimplifies why you elect politicians, or why they can do what Lincoln did,” says Tommy Bruce, a former political consultant in Washington. Consider, as another example, the storied political career of President Franklin Roosevelt. Because the mood was ripe for dramatic change in the depths of the Great Depression, FDR was able to push an astonishing array of New Deal programs through a largely compliant Congress, assuming what some described as near-dictatorial powers. But in his second term, full of confidence because of a landslide victory in 1936 that brought in unprecedented Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Roosevelt overreached with his infamous Court-packing proposal. All of a sudden, the political capital that experts thought was limitless disappeared. FDR’s plan to expand the Supreme Court by putting in his judicial allies abruptly created an unanticipated wall of opposition from newly reunited Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats. FDR thus inadvertently handed back to Congress, especially to the Senate, the power and influence he had seized in his first term. Sure, Roosevelt had loads of popularity and momentum in 1937. He seemed to have a bank vault full of political capital. But, once again, a president simply chose to take on the wrong issue at the wrong time; this time, instead of most of the political interests in the country aligning his way, they opposed him. Roosevelt didn’t fully recover until World War II, despite two more election victories. In terms of Obama’s second-term agenda, what all these shifting tides of momentum and political calculation mean is this: Anything goes. Obama has no more elections to win, and he needs to worry only about the support he will have in the House and Senate after 2014. But if he picks issues that the country’s mood will support—such as, perhaps, immigration reform and gun control—there is no reason to think he can’t win far more victories than any of the careful calculators of political capital now believe is possible, including battles over tax reform and deficit reduction. Amid today’s atmosphere of Republican self-doubt, a new, more mature Obama seems to be emerging, one who has his agenda clearly in mind and will ride the mood of the country more adroitly. If he can get some early wins—as he already has, apparently, on the fiscal cliff and the upper-income tax increase—that will create momentum, and one win may well lead to others. “Winning wins.” Obama himself learned some hard lessons over the past four years about the falsity of the political-capital concept. Despite his decisive victory over John McCain in 2008, he fumbled the selling of his $787 billion stimulus plan by portraying himself naively as a “post-partisan” president who somehow had been given the electoral mandate to be all things to all people. So Obama tried to sell his stimulus as a long-term restructuring plan that would “lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth.” The president thus fed GOP suspicions that he was just another big-government liberal. Had he understood better that the country was digging in against yet more government intervention and had sold the stimulus as what it mainly was—a giant shot of adrenalin to an economy with a stopped heart, a pure emergency measure—he might well have escaped the worst of the backlash. But by laying on ambitious programs, and following up quickly with his health care plan, he only sealed his reputation on the right as a closet socialist. After that, Obama’s public posturing provoked automatic opposition from the GOP, no matter what he said. If the president put his personal imprimatur on any plan—from deficit reduction, to health care, to immigration reform—Republicans were virtually guaranteed to come out against it. But this year, when he sought to exploit the chastened GOP’s newfound willingness to compromise on immigration, his approach was different. He seemed to understand that the Republicans needed to reclaim immigration reform as their own issue, and he was willing to let them have some credit. When he mounted his bully pulpit in Nevada, he delivered another new message as well: You Republicans don’t have to listen to what I say anymore. And don’t worry about who’s got the political capital. Just take a hard look at where I’m saying this: in a state you were supposed to have won but lost because of the rising Hispanic vote. Obama was cleverly pointing the GOP toward conclusions that he knows it is already reaching on its own: If you, the Republicans, want to have any kind of a future in a vastly changed electoral map, you have no choice but to move. It’s your choice.